Living in New York can be part of the American dream, but self-defense can seem like a nightmare. If you don’t know what the laws say, you can end up in deep trouble very quickly. Don’t guess at safety. I looked into the local laws to see what you can carry to keep yourself safe and what I found may surprise you.
Nobody wants to end up in jail because someone else attacked them. Protecting yourself from danger is an instinct, but being ready to do so legally can be harder than you think. Don’t just grab the first weapon you see and start practicing with it. Being savvy is a vital part of proper emergency preparedness.
New York Weapon Laws
I’m not a lawyer or a judge, so you’ll need to ask a professional if you need any clarification, but the laws on carrying weapons in New York, like all US laws, are readily available online. Several different laws relating to the ownership, use, and carrying of weapons in New York exist. However, S 26.501 details a list of weapons you cannot have at all.
I excluded the guns and knives. This list is the rest of the weapons that are expressly prohibited. It’s noteworthy that anything used to assault another person, even in self-defense can be considered a weapon or deadly weapon in a court of law. The distinction is entirely up to the judge.
- Billy Clubs- A Billy is a stick, typically with a loop attached at one end or another handle
- Blackjacks- Leather over a piece of metal with a springy handle, similar to a sand club
- Bludgeons- Also known as a cudgel, stick, truncheon or bat
- Chuka Sticks or Nunchuks- Two sticks connected by rope or chain
- Electronic Dart Guns- Any gun that shoots darts using a power source like a battery
- Electronic Stun Guns- This includes tasers
- Metal Knuckles- Metal knuckle coverings
- Plastic Knuckles- Plastic knuckle coverings
- Sand Bag- Quite literally a bag with sand inside used to hit people
- Sand Club- A sewn leather tool shaped like a small paddle with sand inside used as a club
- Shirken or Kung Fu Star- Also called ninja stars or throwing stars
- Slungshot- A slungshot is a weighted ball inside a monkey fist knot of rope with a loop of rope to swing or throw the weapon.
- Wrist-Brace Type Slingshot- This is a slingshot that attaches to the wrist and may fold down when not in use for easy concealment.
New York, both the state and city, are incredibly tough on guns. Open carry isn’t explicitly prohibited, but permits are issued for concealed carry only. You need a license to carry a firearm. Hence the most sensible seeming interpretation would be that open carry is forbidden. When in doubt, ask a lawyer first, not after you get arrested or ticketed.
Can I Carry a Knife
I was once asked if all knives were illegal in NYC. The question came as a huge surprise, but why would a normal law-abiding, if naive, person know how wrong that assumption is if they had no experience? You can carry knives in New York City, as long as you choose wisely. You need a good reason to have a knife on you, and ‘self-protection’ isn’t the right answer.
First things first since most people in the state of New York live in NYC. It’s important to know that city law differs from state laws. While most of New York allows you to own and carry a gravity knife, doing so in city limits of New York City can and will get you arrested. Don’t risk your freedom on a silly mistake like this. Skip the gravity knife altogether and avoid the possible problem.
According to Knife Up, this is what you can and cannot carry in New York:
Knives You Can Carry
- Hunting Knives
- Dirks & Daggers
- Gravity knife (Unfortunately, as mentioned, you can’t carry these in NYC.)
Knives You Can’t Have
- Pilum ballistic knives
- Metal knuckle knives
- Cane swords with concealed blades
- Throwing stars (sorry ninjas)
- You can’t own any knife unless you’re a U.S. citizen
- It is illegal to possess any knife adapted for use primarily as a weapon
- A switchblade knife requires a valid hunting or fishing license
The biggest thing to remember if you’re going to choose a knife for self-defense is that you need to know how to use it well. A first-time crook might fall for the sort of flailing an inexperienced wielder displays. Unfortunately, any criminal who’s had some experience can probably take that blade before you have time to blink. Take a class, practice at home, and don’t just assume your new swiss army gadget is point-and-click.
Regardless of what one site says, the information may be outdated or incorrect. For example, the New York Criminal Lawyer Blog says any weapon, including every sort of knife, is illegal if you intend to use it on another person. Therefore, any defensive weapon can get you in legal trouble.
New York’s Strange Affinity for Machetes
In an odd twist, many people, mostly the bad ones, choose machetes for both defense and horrifying offense in NYC. Back in 2014, the New York Post ran a story about the prevalence of these blades. There were no less than twenty-four incidents between 2010 and 2014 involving machetes.
Machetes are considered farming tools, but that doesn’t make them legal in the city. After all, there aren’t many (any) farms to speak of there. Don’t be fooled by the fact that thugs are willing to bend the rules. Machetes are illegal. Unfortunately, the penalty wasn’t very severe for carrying them, a few hundred dollars fine or fifteen days in jail.
Moreover, they are sold in shops in the area. The ‘moral’ of the story is buyer beware. Just because you can get your hands on something doesn’t mean you won’t get in trouble if you carry one.
Five Best Self Defense Weapons for New York
You are technically allowed to carry pepper spray or a gun, but no reputable dealer will legally ship them. Instead of wasting your time hunting around, I’ve curated a quick and easy list of the best self-defense solutions you can order right away.
Please keep in mind that carrying weapons in New York with the intent to hurt people is illegal. You can defend yourself, but you need to be very careful about how if you want to avoid ending up behind bars.
1. WUBEN 1200 Lumens LED Flashlight
In a place like New York where you can end up in as much trouble as your attacker just for carrying appropriate defensive weapons, you have to think out of the box. Go for something smart, universal, useful for non-defensive purposes, and functional.
Wuben’s twelve hundred lumens LED flashlight is an excellent example of this sort of choice. Don’t carry it to do damage. Instead, take this with the specific intent of illuminating dark situations. The fact that you can also temporarily blind an attacker, thus allowing you to escape is just a nice bonus.
- Proof- Waterproof, dustproof airplane grade aluminum makes up the body of this powerful little light. You won’t need to worry about any accidental bumps wrecking your light source.
- Stand Behind Your Product- WUBEN Flashlights have free returns within 30 days, free repairs for a year, a manufacturer’s warranty that lasts five years and twenty-four-seven customer service.
- Photochemical Glass Lens- As much as 99% of the light, this powerful device makes will shine directly on whatever problem you face.
- Small- There’s nothing wrong with being little. At just 5.5 inches and seven ounces, you won’t be able to hit an attacker with anything but the light beam.
- You Have to Run- Okay, this is a serious stretch as far as downsides go, but you do need to have somewhere to escape to once you blind the bad guy.
- Nothing- I searched for other cons, but this light is top of the list for a good reason. It does the job well.
Look into lighting solutions here.
2. Taiker Personal Alarm Self-Defense Security Alarm Keychain
This tiny device could save your life or your children’s lives. Once you pull the pin, it will shriek out a warning at a massive hundred and forty decibels for up to a half-hour. For those who can’t defend, bringing help and letting the world know there’s a problem is the next best option. Everyone should have one even if they have other weapons at their disposal. No one can accuse you of trying to harm your attacker if you scare them off and bring the neighborhood running instead.
- Super Portable- This pair of keychain attachments will go wherever you go. You can clip them on your belt loops, add them to a zipper pull or carry them with your keys.
- Easy to Use- Pull the pin and cover your ears, it’s that easy. A hundred forty decibels will make one hell of a racket. Kick it under a car if your attacker tries to get it away from you.
- Bonus LED- The light on the end will help you find your keys and see what’s coming. Any company that thinks ahead like that is worth a second look.
- Lovers Not Fighters- This defense is designed to draw so much attention; it scares away an attacker or brings help. Unfortunately, it’s not much good in a dust-up unless your attacker has on a helmet. Then I suppose you could shove it inside for a loud distraction.
- Too Good- Check the brand name on the shop before you buy this product. The alarms they make are so good there are copycats selling knock offs.
Get yours right here.
If you’ve never heard of the HyperWhistle, you’ve been missing out on an excellent tool. Survivalists, hikers, and campers could all benefit from carrying a whistle like this in case of injury. As for any potential attackers, they’ll probably be more worried about whether or not they’ll ever hear again than where you’ve escaped to. A word of caution, use ear protection, so you don’t hurt yourself.
- Hearing Protection- When you buy the world’s loudest whistle, it comes with reusable hearing protection because you’ll need it. Of course, it also means you can pretty much assume that anyone nearby will hear your call for help.
- Sturdy- The thick plastic on this whistle will stand up to tough situations. It’s designed for sports coaches and survival situations, so it’s not flimsy.
- It Floats- Hopefully, you’ll never have to worry about dropping your HyperWhistle in a body of water. Luckily if you do at least, it will stay on the surface.
- Damage- This whistle can do actual hearing damage. It’s not meant as a weapon, but it could do harm.
- Dark Colored- The detachable lanyard should stop you from dropping your whistle in the dark. However, since it’s black, it might be easy to lose if you have no light at all.
Blow the bad guys away here.
4. Get Back Whip
Of all the products listed here, this is the most weapon like because whips are weapons. While they’re not explicitly forbidden, you’ll need a good reason to be carrying one around with you. Perhaps adding it to other decorative braided leather elements on a jacket ‘because it’s cool’ is your best bet. A short biker whip (get back whip) is ideal for close-quarters due to the short length.
- Hand Made- If you want to find a way to support artisans and protect yourself, this is perfect. Hand-braided leather is robust and flexible.
- Clasp- You can use the clasp end for attaching to your clothing or gear, or flip it around and use the metal end to stop an attacker in their tracks.
- Looks Decorative- A whip this short doesn’t look much like a weapon. The silver skull bead at the end adds a nice decorative touch to any leather outfit.
- Whips Hurt- You can do some severe damage with a short whip like this. If you’re good at using it, you’ll have a hard time explaining away how this is not a weapon.
- Sold as a Weapon- Whips are weapons, and they’re sold to keep people away from you and presumably your motorcycle if you have one.
‘Get Back,’ at criminals here.
5. The Atomic Bear Tactical Pen
A great tactical pen can be your new favorite tool. Use it to break into your car if you lock the keys inside or sign relevant documents. The pen works, it’s just surrounded by aircraft-grade aluminum and shaped to give you a good grip. The beautiful part about a pen is that it’s just a pen and no further explanation is needed.
- Free Carry Pouch- Atomic Bear, has free pouched to carry your tac-pen on your belt when you buy through Amazon.
- Bonus Ink Cartridges- What good is a pen if you can’t write with it? You won’t need an excuse to carry this cool pen with it’s two extra ink cartridges.
- A Respected Company- Atomic Bear, is known for its high-quality products.
- High Profile- The fact that Atomic Bear is known for their tactical pens means lots of people, like police and prosecutors, know this pen is a self-defense item.
- It Looks Mean- As macho accessories go, this is clearly not soft edges and curves. Because the Atomic Bear Tactical Pen is a weapon, it looks dangerous.
Check out Atomic Bear on Amazon right here.
Finding a great defensive weapon is easy. Unfortunately using one in New York is a whole different issue. If you can get a gun and a concealed carry permit, it’s a great idea. However, having a backup plan, or carrying a purely defensive item like the ones on this list can get you out of a bad situation without any shots fired. Don’t hesitate to defend yourself, but be smart about it, especially in New York.
New York sucks ass, I pray I never have to go to that cesspool. If I do go I will probably do jail time because I believe that every man, woman, and child should be allowed to defend themselves. Crime would be nonexistent if the lawful could defend themselves.
I just finished reading this bullshit and I 100% agree with you. New York Stste is a fucking joke. I “was” a life long martial artist. Since my stroke in September 2019 and major heart surgery in February 2020 ,,,, I am extremely vulnerable now. So I’ve been researching alternative methods of keeping my family and myself safe. I don’t own guns, so I saw several “Non Lethal” devices that would actually stop an attacker,,, all of which NYS doesn’t allow… So, I’m thinking the same way, , put me in jail for a while because I’m going to carry and use them Anyway. NYS politicians and criminals I think all come from the same fucking tree.
If that were true there wouldn’t be any crime in areas where open-carry laws exist. But lo and behold… there is.
I’m pretty sure New York doesn’t want you in the state anyway, John Michael Street.
I agree with you 100%… In New York the criminals and crazies have all kinds of weapons at their disposal, while the law abiding citizens can go to jail for carrying a toothpick….
Can I use nun-chucks?
Nun-chucks are pretty illegal in NYS as i recall. I learned this looking for dojos that would teach them. It seems anything remotely effective as a weapon is pretty much illegal.. though im seeing some demonstrations of the “Get-Back Whip” and, the right model of these is a ferocious tool! (I think training foam nunchucks are still legal)
Canes are legal too walk with. Learn the Art. I am
You are misleading and fear mongering you sure as hell can have a bb or pellet gun in nyc .
I am not fear mongering. Most all big cities have extremely harsh ordinances when it comes to personal self-defense products. I lived in Chicago and the rules were very draconian
The anti-BB gun law in NY was overturned in 2019. You can now own a BB gun, but you must be licensed first. Perhaps this article was written before the restrictive law became history. Here’s more: https://legalbeagle.com/6319167-new-state-bb-gun-laws.html
Any knife can be considered a ‘dangerous weapon’ by a police officer including a steak knife. Not sure when this article was written but true old school style gravity knives (such as those from the 1950’s- 60’s) are no longer illegal in N.Y. providing the blade length is under 4 inches. I believe the confusion arises with the more recent spring assist knives which sometimes can be opened via gravity with the flick of a wrist. These knives are now being construed as switchblade knives by some officers because of the spring assist mechanism.
So basically you can’t have any self defense weapons… wow.
Whatever you use to defend yourself; there’s always going to be someone who might say what you did to survive was illegal; but, the bottom line is “It’s better to be judged by 12, then carried by 6.” Use common sense by avoiding dangerous locations, not associating with criminal or recluse people, and knowing some basic self-defense techniques.
Great article. Thanks for the info!
PS- We do have farms in NYC 🙂